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Ex-White House Counsel Don McGahn Says, Trump Directed Me to Pressure Deputy Attorney General to Fire Mueller, I Refused; FBI Chief Testifies after Release of 1/6 Insurrection Report; Biden Arrives for First Meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Aired 10:30- 11a ET
Aired June 10, 2021 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I know you're questioning what he will or won't do. What could he do with this?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Merrick Garland absolutely can open a criminal investigation of Donald Trump and others for obstruction of justice. We're still within that five-year what we call statute of limitations period, when you can charge criminal offense. He can open an investigation. He can assign a team of prosecutors and FBI agents to it. He can use the information in the Mueller report. He can use McGahn's testimony from the other day. And then he can make a straightforward decision, is this a chargeable criminal obstruction of justice offense or not? And if it is, charge it. And if it's not, don't.
Merrick Garland has put a lot of nice rhetoric out there about doing the right thing without fear or favor, let's see if he can back that up.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Will he? I mean, based on what you've seen so far, right, and you have been critical of him on some of his decisions, is this criminal prosecution of a former president that the current attorney general pursues?
HONIG: I do not think Merrick Garland will pursue this. As you said, Jim, I've pointed out several times recently where Merrick Garland seems to be sort of instinctively seeking out the path of least resistance. And he seems to be going out of his way not to make any politically divisive decisions, any politically explosive decisions to investigate the former president and potentially charge him would absolutely be a difficult controversial decision.
And I think with Merrick Garland, there comes a point when you're trying so hard not to play politics that you cease to do your job as the country's top prosecutor. So, no, I don't expect Merrick Garland to do anything here. Maybe we'll be surprised, however.
SCIUTTO: Someone I know wrote a book about the previous occupant to that position. HARLOW: We're just going to say that. Why are we selling Elie's book? Guys, control room, can we get that up here next time? We can't wait to read it.
HONIG: Coming soon.
SCIUTTO: We'll have it back because it gets to a lot of these questions. Elie Honig, thank you very much.
HONIG: Thanks, Jim and Poppy.
SCIUTTO: Just ahead, the U.S. now plans to donate 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to countries around the world to help the global pandemic, help stop it. Is that big enough contribution? And will those doses arrive fast enough?
SCIUTTO: We have live pictures coming in from Washington. That is the FBI director, Christopher Wray, is now testifying before the Judiciary Committee, this is about oversight of the FBI, a lot of important questions there, including questions of how the FBI's continuing to pursue those accused of taking part in the January 6th insurrection.
HARLOW: Right. So we'll bring any important sound from that as soon as we have it.
Let's take a look overseas now across the Atlantic. I think we have live pictures coming up in just a moment of Boris Johnson, the U.K. prime minister there with his wife, Carrie, alongside President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden there in Carbis Bay, England. We'll get back to that in a moment.
But let me take you back to Washington now. FBI Director Christopher Wray testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. Let's listen.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: -- that we are going to be looking hard at how we can do better, how we can do more, how we can do things differently in terms of collecting, analyzing and disseminating intelligence.
Now, you also mentioned individuals under investigation before January 6th. So, a couple things on that. First, the FBI did disseminate, I think, about a dozen intelligence products, including warning of domestic violence extremism related to the election, some talking about a continuing past the election all the way through inauguration, including reports together with DHS put out in December, the month before.
As far as individuals actually under investigation, now that we're close to 500 arrests into the matter, you may be surprised to learn that, in fact, almost none of the individuals charged and found to be involved with the attack on the Capitol were, in fact, individuals who were previously (INAUDIBLE) under investigation. REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Okay. At 12:53 P.M. on January 6th, rioters broke through the outer barricades surrounding the lawn of the Capitol. Shortly after 1:45, the rioters surge past the Capitol Police protecting the Capitol's west steps. And then at 1:49, officers officially declared there was a riot at the Capitol.
Acting Attorney General Rosen testified before the Oversight Committee that he learned that the FBI and the ATF received requests for assistance from the Capitol Police and beginning to respond. When specifically in that timeline of events did Capitol Police request assistance from the FBI and how quickly was that help deployed?
WRAY: I don't have the specific time for you, so I don't want to misspeak.
NADLER: Okay. The FBI's Washington Field Office is one of the largest field offices in the country. The field office was reportedly found by an internal review in 2019 to be both ineffective and inefficient. Specifically, the review criticized the field office's mechanisms for collecting and analyzing threat intelligence as well as its procedures for sharing intelligence with other law enforcement agencies, including the Capitol Police.
Did the Washington Field Office's domestic terrorism shortcomings lead to a delayed response in the lead-up to and on January 6th?
WRAY: My recollection of that particular audit or inspection is that it was awhile back and that we had recently changed the leadership of the Washington Field Office and made a number of reforms. So, to my knowledge, at least, none of the issues that were discussed in that earlier report contributed to the response on January 6th.
NADLER: Thank you. My time is short but I want to get in one last question. In February, the secretary of defense converted senior military officials and civilian leadership of the Armed Forces to assess the problem of extremist ideology in the military's ranks. In late April, the Department of Homeland Security announced it was conducting the internal review to root out white supremacy and other extremist ideology in its ranks. There can be no question that law enforcement agencies across the country face a similar challenge.
Is the FBI conducting its own internal inspection or review to root out white supremacy and other extremist ideology? And, if not, will you commit to conducting such a review?
WRAY: Well, Mr. Chairman, obviously, we take the prospect of what the intelligence community or law enforcement would refer to as an insider threat very seriously. We have a whole slew of procedures and internal reviews that speak to that. I'd be happy to see if we can provide you more information on that separately.
NADLER: Thank you very much. My time has expired. I now recognize the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Jordan.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Mr. Chairman, Mr. McClintock will go first for our side.
NADLER: Mr. McClintock?
REP. TOM MCCLINTOCK (R-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Director Wray, last month 180,000 foreign nationals illegally crossed our border. That is a 674 percent increase over last May, nearly a million so far this year. The leaders of Mexico and the northern triangle countries all say this is in direct response to the Biden open border policies. I don't think there is any question that is the case.
These policies have produced the largest human trafficking operations since the international slave trade. Can you tell us how many persons on the terrorist watch list have been encountered this year crossing through our southern border?
WRAY: Congressman, I'm not sure that I have that number but we may that we can provide the specifics separately. I do know that our field offices down on the border work very closely with CBP, especially focused on so-called special interest aliens as well as potential person. I just don't have the numbers in here.
MCCLINTOCK: But I've watched family groups being flagged through straight to transportation hubs. How many persons with criminal records or criminal warrants have been encountered this year crossing our southern border?
WRAY: Again, I don't have the specific figures. But I know that our field offices down there both all of which I've visited, worked very closely with (INAUDIBLE) on this issue. And I agree with you that it's a significant security concern.
MCCLINTOCK: Well, would you think it's more dangerous threat to our nation's security than, say, whether Rudy Giuliani filed the right paperwork for his lobbying firm?
WRAY: I really can't discuss any specific individuals.
MCCLINTOCK: Can you please give us the FBI estimate of how many terrorists, criminals and gang members are among the hundreds of thousands of gotaways that the border patrol has been unable to intercept?
WRAY: Again, I'd be happy to see if I can provide specific numbers and information to be helpful to request separately. So I'm happy to follow up with your staff on that.
MCCLINTOCK: On that point, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy sent you a letter in April requesting a briefing on this subject. Will you commit to keeping Mr. McCarthy, in fact, all members of this committee fully informed of it?
WRAY: I believe we have actually may have already provided the briefing that you're refer to for Leader McCarthy.
MCCLINTOCK: And will you provide that for all members of the committee?
WRAY: Again, I'm happy to see what information we can provide to be helpful.
MCCLINTOCK: I hope can you provide me all the information.
WRAY: Again, I'll have to see what information we can provide, but, yes.
MCCLINTOCK: It is true that many of the foreign nationals who are being trafficked across our border often arrive deeply indebted to the Mexican crime cartels?
WRAY: Certainly, we have seen quite a number of such instances, absolutely.
MCCLINTOCK: Are those debts collected through indebt of servitude to the cartels?
WRAY: In some cases, definitely. And we are pursuing -- we have a number of human trafficking task forces as well as working on certain task forces with DHS to try to address that issue. But there is no question that the cartel activity on the other side of the border is spilling over in all sorts of ways. And you just put your finger directly on one that is extremely concerning to us all.
MCCLINTOCK: So we basically, 170-plus years after the 13th Amendment have slavery burgeoning in this country as a result of these policies?
WRAY: Well, certainly I do consider human trafficking a form of -- a modern form of slavery. I mean, it's almost medieval.
MCCLINTOCK: Indebt of servitude, It certainly is. How is that -- you mentioned out of the country, but in this country, how is that enforced? Do the cartels have gang affiliates who extract these debts?
WRAY: Well, it varies from case to case.
Certainly, the cartels have a -- different cartels have affiliations with different sorts of gangs here in the United States. There's not just human trafficking from a labor perspective --
MCCLINTOCK: This is a massive organized crime syndicate burgeoning in this country because of these policies. What are you doing about it?
WRAY: So we are attacking -- it's a team effort, right? Obviously, DHS has the primary responsibility for the border itself. But we have safe streets task forces that go after the gang activity, we have strike forces that go after --
MCCLINTOCK: How many agents and how much money you are directing at this threat?
WRAY: Again, I can see if I can give you specific notice I don't have those off the top of my head. I will tell, which is sometimes surprising to people, that our criminal programs, our traditional criminal programs, which include exactly the kind of thing you're talking about, remain even to this day with all the national security threats that get so much discussion, remain our biggest number of agents, our biggest allocation of resources. And violent crime, different sorts of violent crime within the criminal program is by far, in a way, the biggest chunk.
MCCLINTOCK: Thank you.
NADLER: The gentleman's time has expired. Ms. Lofgren?
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thanks to you, Director Wray, for your service to our country. I want to thank especially the bureau for the diligence with which you have pursued those who attacked the Capitol and the Capitol Police and essentially attacked our democratic system of government on January 6th. We wish you well in those efforts.
I have a couple of questions about the rule of law. We all believe in the rule of law. And we think that -- I know you do too, that the rule of law applies to the government as well. It leads me to a question about Section 702 of the FISA law. As you know, there has been a review by the court on the use of FISA and as you, I'm sure, know in the latest review, the foreign intelligence surveillance court found widespread violations of the FBI's internal rules and the laws restrictions on how and when the government may use the information it collects under Section 702.
For example, the court found and, I quote, compliance incidents suggesting that the FBI's failure to properly apply its querying standard when searching 702, acquired information was more pervasive than previously believed. In one case, FBI personnel foreign intelligence databases for the names of over 100 business, religious, civic community leaders who applied to the FBI citizen academy. The court also found dozens of cases where agents had searched intelligence collections in the course of criminal investigations.
In summary, the court expressed concerns about, quote, the (INAUDIBLE) widespread violations of safeguards on the use of warrantless collections.
In response to all of these criticisms and concerns, the FBI, it seems to me, basically said they had been working on changes but that had been suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic protocols.
But here's my question, Director Wray. Section 702 was enacted in 2008. The FBI and other intelligence agencies have had more than a decade to implement what the law requires. And yet it's 2021 and the FISA court is still finding -- this isn't the first time -- still finding widespread violations and failures where the FBI uses basically the hook of foreign surveillance but it is using it to avoid its warrant requirements or domestic law enforcement. Why is this happening?
WRAY: Well, Congresswoman, I obviously want to make sure and I'm fiercely committed to making sure that the FBI complies with FISA in all respects. The FISA courts concerns are certainly concerns that I take especially seriously as somebody who's a former prosecutor, former defense attorney, former assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division and now FBI director. Our relationship with and our candor with and our transparency and the confidence that we earn with the court is of the utmost importance to me.
Now, the opinion that you are referring to from the court does approve our procedures, did not, in fact, find abuses or misconduct and has to deal specifically with the querying, the running of searches in our databases. So we have taken --
LOFGREN: You also found that you had used -- the FBI had used data for internal domestic investigations. That's a violation of the purpose of 702.
WRY: And I'm -- and again, I'm not going to speak to the specific instances in the report because I think that would take longer than we have here among other things. But I would say that we have done a number of things to try to address the issues identified by the court. We have made significant changes to the documentation requirements to ensure accountability, oversight requirements, guidance and training enhancements, systems modifications, which may not sound glamorous, but it is incredibly important because it helps prevent noncompliance.
And then last but not least, something I particularly want to highlight, I created a new -- a whole new department in the FBI, an office of internal auditing headed by a senior partner from a top -- you know, a big four accounting firm who had also prior in his life been an FBI agent, and is consulting with a premier outside world class consulting firm to stand up and office of internal audit specifically focused on FISA to ensure we have a world class compliance program and world class internal auditing program to make sure that we don't have these --
NADLER: The gentle lady's time has expired.
LOFGREN: If I may, Mr. Chairman, can we get the director to commit to have this individual brief the committee on those procedures?
WRAY: I'd be happy to see if we can get the committee a briefing on what we're doing in this space.
NADLER: Thank you.
LOFGREN: Thank you, I yield back.
NADLER: The gentle lady yields back.
SCIUTTO: We've been listening to the FBI director testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, answering questions, one, interestingly on what Jerry Nadler described as the FBI's delayed response to January 6th, tough questions for the FBI director.
HARLOW: But this is a pretty broad oversight hearing by the House Judiciary Committee, so not all questions about January 6th.
SCIUTTO: Lots on Republicans about the southern border.
HARLOW: That's exactly right. We'll keep monitoring this as it continues.
SCIUTTO: We're going to go now overseas. Our Jeff Zeleny has been traveling with President Biden on his first overseas trip. He has just been meeting with the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, as well as their wives, Carrie and Dr. Jill Biden.
Jeff, there they are. They took a trip down to the waterfront there, the newly married Boris Johnson with his wife, Carrie, and the, of course, Dr. Jill Biden there with President Biden.
Jeff, what are they planning to do when they get down to business today?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, these are the first moments here, as we're seeing President Biden meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and their wives, walking mask-less here at the opening full day of President Biden's first trip abroad here.
And after the pleasantries were exchanged, the two leaders also reviewed the Atlantic charter. Of course, that is the original document from 80 years ago signed by FDR and Winston Churchill. And they are going to be making revisions to that, bringing it into the more modern day threats, if you will and agreements and values. But we'll see that full document a little bit later after their meeting.
But we heard President Biden saying, look, this is gorgeous here, I would like to stay. He noted it was the first time he's been here as president, not the first time he's visited this part of England overall. So we're going to get a better sense of their dynamic.
But, certainly when they walk into the meeting there, this is a big moment for the prime minister as well, wanting to expand his role on the world stage and for President Biden. So, no sign there that there were any issues from their previous relationships.
So there's something about presidents and prime ministers. They're very easy and eager to step aside and sweep aside old relationships. Of course, Prime Minister Johnson a key ally of President Trump, but now there is a new man in town and that's Joe Biden.
HARLOW: Quickly, Jeff, before we have to go. Biden walks into this meeting with deep reservations about Brexit, especially what it will mean for Northern Ireland and the Good Friday agreement, and is expected to press Johnson on that, no?
ZELENY: Right. That is going to be one of the key issues, we're told, that they're going to talk about in their bilateral meeting with just the two leaders. We know that President Biden was never a supporter of Brexit. Of course, President Obama was not either. Boris Johnson, of course, led the way on that and was elected for that. So that will be one of the points of discussion.
The Good Friday agreement, of course, was an end to violence in Northern Ireland. This is very near and dear to President Biden's heart. So this is something that they will be speaking about.
Also we're told they'll be speaking about trying to come up with a willingness to ease travel restrictions between America and England that are keeping people on both sides of the pond, if you will. We've had a special exemption to come here to England. But that is one of the things that they will be talking about as well, opening up travel when it is safe to do so.
HARLOW: Okay. Jeff Zeleny for us traveling with the president in Falmouth, England, thank you for the reporting.
And thanks to all of you for being with us today. It's great to be back in person.
SCIUTTO: It is. I can actually reach out and --
HARLOW: We'll see you tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.
SCIUTTO: I'm Jim Sciutto. At This Hour with Kate Bolduan will start right after a short break.